DIETING 101

Jimstoppani-nutrition-image-dieting101

How to get lean AND stay lean for good!

Before going any further, I suggest you first read " Jim's Muscle-Building Nutrition Rules."

When we talk about dropping body fat, we still want to maintain, if not build, lean muscle mass and strength. So your first goal is to make sure you have your diet and supplement plan in place to maximize muscle growth. Study the 9 rules I break down in that article. They're still critical, even as your goal shifts to fat loss.

If you've followed any of my training and diet programs to maximize fat loss, you know that they work very well. Consider my very popular "Shortcut To Shred" diet on Bodybuilding.com as well as "1-2-3 Lean" here on JimStoppani.com. Millions of people have gotten lean with this training, diet and supplement plan. You may very well be one of the millions who actually witnessed those benefits on your own body. Yet I have to admit the 1-2-3 Lean and Shortcut To Shred diets aren't ideal for everyone because every body responds differently to diets.

The thing is, when I create a program that's meant to be helpful for millions of people, it needs to be easy to follow. Many people don't even understand the difference between protein and carbs and just want to be told what to do. So I create diets that I feel will be effective for most people.

To Shred or Not to Shred?

As effective as Shortcut To Shred is, it may not be the best way for you to lose body fat while maintaining or building muscle. In that meal plan, you start with carbs at 1.5 grams per pound of body weight for one week. This is designed to help your body get used to the intense training and to keep your metabolic rate up before you start dropping carbs and calories. However, if your diet is already low-carb, then starting off at 1.5 grams of carbs may be too high for you.

In the second week of the diet, you drop carbs down to 1 gram per pound of body weight, and then in weeks 4-6, you drop carbs again, down to 0.5 grams per pound. This is a very effective strategy for continuing to drop body fat without hitting a plateau -- for most people, that is. It just may not be the ideal diet for you.

Your Best Diet

A better diet is one that considers what you're currently eating and how your body responds throughout the diet and adjusts accordingly. Since I can't be there to monitor your progress, it will require a bit more work from you than just following the plan meal by meal. But that's why you're a member of my site; you want to learn more and figure out how to apply the information to your own body for better results. This is what this article will teach you: How to figure out where to start on a fat-loss diet and how to progress based on your body's response.

Let's Begin!

This article breaks down the nutrition information to maximize fat loss into steps. The reason for this is, fat loss is a continual process and your diet must change gradually over time. The worst thing you can do is immediately jump down to a very low amount of calories and carbohydrates.

For example, many people ask me if going on a Keto diet, where almost all carbs are removed from the diet, is a smart plan. The answer is no. Yes, this can result in very rapid fat loss at the beginning, but after a few months, when fat loss stops and hits a plateau, there's little wiggle room to remove more calories and continue losing body fat.

"Starvation Mode"

When you diet, your body responds by going into "starvation mode." This means your body slows down your metabolic rate, the number of calories you burn just sitting around. The reason for this is to conserve energy stores, namely your body fat. Your body prefers not to be lean, since body fat is stored energy that it can use when food is scarce. The more you reduce your caloric intake, the bigger the drop in your metabolic rate and the quicker this will happen.

To prevent a massive slowing of your metabolic rate, you need to gradually reduce your calorie intake little by little.

Exercise will help keep your metabolic rate higher, but it can't prevent the gradual lowering of it as you drop calories. You want to start a diet for fat loss by eating as many calories as you can while still losing weight. This way, you have ample room to keep lowering calories as your metabolic rate drops and fat loss hits a plateau. How do you figure out how many calories to start your diet with?

Step 1: Analyze Your Diet

To get the best estimate of where you should start for calories, you need to take an honest look at your current diet. I recommend recording everything you eat for one full week. But if that seems daunting, do at least two weekdays and one weekend day. If you have a scale, weigh food such as chicken, beef, fish, etc. For liquids and grains (rice, cereal), use measuring cups and spoons. If you have a good take on how much is one cup of something, or how much is 8 ounces of chicken breast, then estimate as best you can. The calories and macros for most foods will be covered in my " Food/Nutrient Database." For packaged foods, use the nutrition facts label on the box.

Keeping a food journal is a trick I like to use to keep people from straying from their diets. When they have a weak moment and crave a donut, knowing that they have to record that in their food log helps them avoid eating the donut. But during this week, don't avoid eating any of the foods that you normally do. The point is to access your true current diet so that you know where to start your new one. If you alter it, it can actually work against your fat-loss efforts.

Calculate the amount of calories, grams of protein, grams of carbs and grams of total fat for each food that you eat. Then, add these up for all the foods that you eat each day. Using an Excel spreadsheet can help make this easier and better allow you to keep track of your diet. You can take the numbers from my database and enter them into Excel, then copy and paste into your current diet as you go.

Once you have the total amount of calories, grams of protein, carbs and fat for each day, you need to get an average of all the days. If you record seven days of food intake, add the calories up for all seven days and divide that number by seven to get the average calorie intake for the seven days. If you did just three days, add up the total calories and divide by three. Do this also for grams of protein, grams of carbs and grams of fat.

The critical factor here is your average calorie intake. Take this number and divide it by your body weight in pounds to calculate your average calories relative to your body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and you consumed an average of 4,000 calories per day, you currently consume an average of 20 calories per pound of body weight.

Step 2: Focus on Protein and Fat

Create your initial diet by using the muscle-building guidelines in my " Muscle-Building Nutrition Rules." Focus on Rules 1 and 3, which deal with protein and fat.

Start by making sure that you consume close to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, and about 0.5 grams of fat per pound. Since there are four calories per gram of protein, that means you'll consume six calories from protein per pound of body weight. Fat has about nine calories per gram, so you will be consuming 4.5 calories from fat per pound. Adding the calories from protein and fat equals 10.5 calories per pound of body weight. Subtract 10.5 from the number of calories per pound of body weight you currently eat based on your food record. For the sample 200-pound person consuming 20 calories per pound of body weight, that equals 9.5 calories.

This is the amount of calories you can consume from carbs per pound of body weight. Since there are four calories per gram of carbs, that equals about 2.5 grams of carbs per pound. Round that number down to 2 grams.

Your new diet will consist of about 1.5 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbs, 0.5 grams of fat and 18.5 calories per pound of body weight. For the 200-pound person that equates to 3,700 calories, 300 grams of protein, 400 grams of carbs and 100 grams of fat per day. (See the sample diet for a 200-pound person following these guidelines.)

Please note that the sample meal plans in this section are very similar to one another for the purpose of illustrating how to change the diet when you move through the different steps. This doesn't mean that you should eat the same foods every day and in each step of the diet. You should have as much variety in your diet as possible. For food alternatives, refer to my Food Alternatives List.

Follow this diet for as long as you continue seeing fat-loss results. Many of you will gain muscle mass even as you're dropping fat, so don't use the scale as your major indicator of fat loss. Use the mirror, your waist size or how you fit into your pants. An even better option is to have your body fat measured by a professional using either a site skinfold caliper, underwater weighing or DEXA scan. Do not use bioelectrical impedance, which calculates percent body fat based on how fast it takes a current to travel through your body. This method is not accurate at all!

The sample meals below are for workout days. On off days from the gym, skip the post-workout meal and have the pre-workout meal as a snack.

Sample meal plan for those working out in the morning:

Pre-workout (as soon as you wake/30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Breakfast (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Fat-burner supplements (take between breakfast and late-morning snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Lunch

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon snack

Dinner

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before-Bed Snack (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

Sample meal plan for those working out at lunchtime:

Fat-burner supplements (as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Pre-workout (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Lunch (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon Snack

Dinner

Before-Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

Sample meal plan for those working out after work/before dinner:

Fat-burner supplements (take as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

Fat-burner supplements (take between late morning snack and lunch)

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Lunch

Afternoon Snack

Pre-workout 1 (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Dinner (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

Sample meal plan for those working out at night after dinner:

Fat-burner supplements (take as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Fat-burner supplements (take between late-morning snack and lunch)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Lunch

Afternoon Snack

Dinner

Pre-workout (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

Step 3: Reduce Carbs

Your next step is to adjust your diet by reducing carbs by 0.25 grams per pound. As I mentioned above, as you reduce calories, your body responds by lowering your metabolic rate to burn fewer calories throughout the day. The only way to continue losing body fat is to reduce your calories.

Since you want to keep protein and fat where they are to maximize muscle growth and strength gains, your best bet is to whittle away your carb intake. Each time you hit a plateau in your diet and it seems like you haven't made any fat loss progress for at least a week, it's time to drop carbs. You'll reduce carbs by 0.25 grams per pound of body weight each time you need to cut again, which will reduce your total calorie intake by about 1 calorie per pound of body weight. For the 200-pound person, that equates to about a 200-calorie cut.

Since our sample 200-pounder is currently consuming 2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight, his first cut will be bringing him down to 1.75 grams per pound. Where you start reducing your carbs from depends on when you train. Regardless, you will cut post-workout carbs ABSOLUTELY LAST.

For those who train in the morning, start reducing carbs from the end of the day and work up as you continue to drop. For those who train at night, start reducing your carbs from the start of the day and work down down as you continue to cut. It gets a little trickier if you train at lunch or before dinner. See the sample diets below for examples of how to drop carbs from your diet with each 0.25 gram per pound cut.

You'll progressively cut carbs each time fat loss hits a plateau until you're down to around just 0.25 grams of carbs per pound. That is, if you ever have to get that low. Many people won't have to get anywhere close to that. It just depends on where you're starting from, what your training consists of and how your body responds to the training and diet.

The sample meals below are for those making their first cut in carbs from 2.0 grams to 1.75 grams per pound of body weight (or 350 grams of carbs total for the 200-pounder). This drops calories to 17 per pound of body weight, or about 3,400 for the 200-pound person. Remember that these meal plans are based on workout days. On rest days from the gym, skip the post-workout meal and have the pre-workout meal as a snack.

Sample meal plan for those working out first thing in the morning:

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Breakfast (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Fat-burner supplements (take between breakfast and late-morning snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Lunch

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon snack

Dinner

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

Sample meal plan for those working out at lunchtime:

Fat-burner supplements (as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Pre-workout (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Lunch (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon Snack

Dinner

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

  • 20-30 g protein from a protein powder blend like Pro JYM
  • Or 1 cup cottage cheese or 1 cup Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter (can add to shake or Greek yogurt or eat separate)

Sample meal plan for those working out after work/before dinner:

Fat-burner supplements (take as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

Fat-burner supplements (take between late morning snack and lunch)

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Lunch

Afternoon Snack

Pre-workout 1 (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Dinner (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

  • 20-30 g protein from a protein powder blend like Pro JYM
  • or 1 cup cottage cheese or 1 cup Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter (can add to shake or Greek yogurt or eat separate)

Sample meal plan for those working out at night after dinner:

Fat-burner supplements (take as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Fat-burner supplements (take between late-morning snack and lunch)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Lunch

Afternoon Snack

Dinner

Pre-workout (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

The sample meals below are for those making the next cut in carbs from 1.75 grams to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight (or 300 grams of carbs total for the 200-pounder). This drops calories to 16 per pound of body weight or about 3,200 for the 200-pound person. Remember that these meal plans are based on workout days. On rest days from the gym, skip the post-workout meal and have the pre-workout meal as a snack.

Sample meal plan for those working out first thing in the morning:

Pre-workout (as soon as you wake/30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Breakfast (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Fat-burner supplements (take between breakfast and late-morning snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Lunch

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon Snack

(make peanut butter sandwich to eat with shake)

Dinner (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

Sample meal plan for those working out at lunchtime:

Fat-burner supplements (as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese)

Pre-workout (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Lunch (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon Snack

(make peanut butter sandwich to eat with shake)

Dinner

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)
  • 20-30 g protein from a protein powder blend like Pro JYM
  • or 1 cup cottage cheese or 1 cup Greek yogurt (with 1 teaspoon honey)
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut butter (can add to shake or Greek yogurt or eat separate)

Sample meal plan for those working out after work/before dinner:

Fat-burner supplements (as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Breakfast

(scramble eggs in olive oil)

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese)

Lunch

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM

Afternoon Snack

(make peanut butter sandwich to eat with shake)

Pre-workout (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Dinner (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed) Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

Sample meal plan for those working out at night after dinner:

Fat-burner supplements (take as soon as you wake up)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM

Breakfast

Late-morning snack

Lunch

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon Snack

(make peanut butter sandwich to eat with shake)

Dinner

Pre-workout (30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Before Bed Supplements (1 hour before bed)

Before Bed Snack  (have immediately before bed - at least 1 hour after ZMA JYM)

The sample meals below are for those making the next cut in carbs from 1.5 grams to 1.25 grams per pound of body weight (or 250 grams of carbs total for the 200-pounder). This drops calories to 15 per pound of body weight or about 3,000 for the 200-pound person. Remember that these meal plans are based on workout days. On rest days from the gym, skip the post-workout meal and have the pre-workout meal as a snack.

Sample meal plan for those working out first thing in the morning:

Pre-workout (as soon as you wake/30-45 minutes before workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop of my pre-workout formula Pre JYM)

Post-workout (within 30 minutes after workouts)

(*You can get all of the supplements above plus others with just one scoop each of my post-workout formulas Post JYM Active Matrix and Carbs.) 

Breakfast (30-60 minutes after post-workout meal)

Fat-burner supplements (take between breakfast and late-morning snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Late-morning snack

(mix pineapple in cottage cheese and eat with crackers)

Lunch

Fat-burner supplements (take between lunch and afternoon snack)

(You can get all the supplements above with one serving of Shred JYM)

Afternoon snack

Dinner

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Have Jim Stoppani be your Personal Trainer!


WHO IS JIM STOPPANI?

Jim Stoppani received his doctorate in exercise physiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut. Following graduation, he served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the prestigious John B. Pierce Laboratory and Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Yale University School of Medicine, where he investigated the effects of exercise and diet on gene regulation in muscle tissue. He was awarded the Gatorade Beginning Investigator in Exercise Science Award in 2002 by the American Physiological Society.